The Triennial Conference of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (later renamed the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India – UELCI), which met at Guntur in 1926, felt the need for a theological college for the Lutheran Churches in India. On July 6, 1927, when such a college started, only students from TELC enrolled in the first divinity class. A summer palace bought in 1859 by the Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission from an Indian Raja, became the Centre firstly. Bishop Johannes Sandegren, the first Principal of the college, named it Gurukul, meaning a Guru (teacher) living together with his Sishyas (disciples).
Though it was planned at an all-India level it was only in July 1931 that the United Lutheran Theological College (Gurukul) was established with students and staff from South Andhra Lutheran Church (SALC), Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), Church of Sweden Mission (CSwM), Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission (LELM), Danish Missionary Society (DMS) and the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC). Dr. Frolich of LELM was made the principal of this United Lutheran Theological College.
In 1953, Gurukul received a new life with a wider participation of the Lutheran Churches and so was named as Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. The college was then affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College for Graduate and Postgraduate Studies. Dr. Sigfrid Estborn became its Principal. Then Gurukul merged with the United Theological College, Bangalore and Serampore College, West Bengal in 1971. From then on, Gurukul became a centre for continuing and extension education for the churches in India.
The reopening of Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) studies at Gurukul by the 20th Triennial Conference held at Madras in 1984 enabled the reviving of the regular BD studies at Gurukul from June 1985. “A Bold Theological Vision” became the cornerstone of academic activities of the college. In 1987, Master of Theology (M.Th.) studies was introduced in two branches – Christian Theology and Religions. In fifteen years, new branches – Old Testament, New Testament, History of Christianity, Communication, Women’s Studies and Missiology were added. By 1999, with the approval of the Senate of Serampore College, Doctor of Theology (D.Th.) program in Christian Theology commenced. Old Testament, Religions, Communication and were later added.
Ecumenicity is the special feature of Gurukul College. It is reflected in the composition of Governing Board, Staff and Students of the College. The Gurukul community now is composed of staff and students representing the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches (UELCI), Church of South India (CSI), Church of North India (CNI), Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar (MTC), Orthodox Church, Assembly of God, Mara Evangelical Church, Methodist Church in India (MCI), Baptists, Independent and Charismatic Churches. There are two representatives from the Church of South India and the Church of North India in the College Council.
Glimpses of Gurukul
It is significant to note that the word “Gurukul” is very much Indian which is derived from two Sanskrit words – ‘guru’ (teacher) and ‘kulam’ (family). That is, in the Vedic system of education, the students used to live with the teacher as a family to learn and seek knowledge from the Guru.
Bold Theological Vision
The revival of Gurukul in 1985 brought about new insights into theological thinking and training in Christian ministry. These new insights were conceptualised and incorporated into the entire programme – teaching, training and continuing education – of the College as ‘new thrusts’.
The Cross is planted in the lotus tank, the polluted water of which is being cleansed by its presence. Near the Cross, the water is seen to assume a brighter colour.